Did Someone Take A Schmidt?

Pardon the awful title…

The rest have joined pitchers and catchers for some spring training fun in the sun, and you know what that means: it’s time for Mike Schmidt to open his mouth again!

Last year, Mike Schmidt called Pat Burrell (and Adam Dunn) “mediocre.”

If these guys cut their strikeouts down to 75 or 80, they put the ball in play 85 or 90 more times a year. That’s at least 15 more home runs and at least 35 more RBIs. If only they had choked up with two strikes, spread their stances out. What they are doing now is not great, it is mediocrity.

Let’s just say that Schmidt has changed his stance on Burrell. On Comcast SportsNet, he thinks Burrell will be the next Phillies MVP. And given that this is Burrell’s last season before free agency, we can safely assume he’s talking about 2008. What sparked the change of heart for Schmidt?

Could it have been the 10 less strikeouts in 10 more at-bats? The increase of one home run and two RBI? 16 more walks and two more doubles?

His 2006 season was pretty similar to his ’07 season. It’s very odd that Schmidt had such a dramatic change in opinion… unless… Schmidt has been using Sabermetrics! Nah, probably not, especially given this:

Schmidt Excited About Phils’ New Third Baseman Feliz

That’s not a typo. Mike Schmidt, the best third baseman in baseball history, is excited about Pedro Feliz, who is about as mediocre as mediocre gets. It’s almost too ironic, even for blogs.

He’s an impressive young man. Tremendously impressive hands, good arm, good batting stroke. I think he’s going to be a big key for the club this year.

[...]

I know since I left [after the 1989 season], [third base] has been a little bit of a sore point in Philadelphia. David Bell was pretty good for a while, and of course, Scott Rolen was really good for a while. But the last several years, third base has been one of those platoon positions that a lot of really good teams don’t platoon at.

Just watching [Feliz] on TV, he caught my eye. I can see a good, solid fundamental hitter. I don’t know what his best year has been. I just know him as a mid-20s home run, 80-RBI guy. I don’t know if he’s ever gotten to 30 home runs or 100 RBIs, but he has that potential, without a doubt.

It’s always amazing when you realize that some of the greatest players have such a hazy idea of what made them great. Schmidt, of course, is correct in noticing his exceptional fielding skills (it’s almost universally agreed upon that Feliz is the best-fielding third baseman in baseball) and in saying that he has 30 HR, 100 RBI potential (his career highs are 22 HR and 98 RBI). Given that he’s going from a very pitcher-friendly ballpark to a very hitter-friendly ballpark, it wouldn’t be outrageous to expect such a season from him.

However, none of the projection systems listed on FanGraphs has him having a great season in those offensive categories:

Bill James: 18 HR, 57 RBI

CHONE: 20 HR, 64 RBI

Marcel: 17 HR, 62 RBI

Schmidt errs in describing Feliz as having a “good batting stroke” and being “a good, solid fundamental hitter.”

There are just so many metrics that show Feliz as being just completely awful offensively…

Year: Feliz OBP/SLG — League Average OBP/SLG

2004: .305/.485 .343/.439

2005: .295/.422 .340/.430

2006: .281/.428 .343/.442

2007: .290/.418 .342/.436

2004-07 Batting and Fielding Runs Above Average (BRAA and FRAA)

2004: 2 BRAA; 0 FRAA

2005: -10 BRAA; -1 FRAA

2006: -16 BRAA; 9 FRAA

2007: -14 BRAA; 14 FRAA

Total: -38 BRAA; 22 FRAA

As for what you’d use to define a “good, solid fundamental hitter,” let’s use Old Traditional: batting average and strikeouts.

Since he started playing regularly (2004), Feliz has had 2,232 at-bats. In those at-bats, he’s logged 569 hits (.255 AVG) and 369 strikeouts (16.5% of AB’s are K’s). I wouldn’t exactly call Feliz a “good, solid fundamental hitter.”

And just for kicks, Schmidt said that David Bell “was pretty good for a while.” If, by “for a while,” he means “in 2004,” then he’s correct. Bell’s OPS+ during his tenure in Philly…

2003: 57 OPS+ in 297 AB

2004: 107 OPS+ in 533 AB

2005: 72 OPS+ in 557 AB

2006: 87 OPS+ in 324 AB before being traded to Milwaukee.

Schmitdty, you brought a lot of smiles to our hearts when you were leading the Phillies to six playoff appearances (1976-78, ’80-81, ’83), two World Series (’80 and ’83), and one championship (’80), simultaneously bronzing your own name in baseball history as the greatest third baseman of all time… but stay away from wayward sports journalists. Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, like “Feliz is actually a good offensive player.”